‘We lost touch with humanness.’ Former LAPD Chief Bernard Parks offers unique perspective on racial unrest
By LA Stories Staff Baldwin Hills
PUBLISHED 5:00 AM PT Jul. 19, 2021
As a baby, Bernard Parks and his family moved out of Beaumont, Texas, to escape the riots that had erupted due to racial unrest.
They ended up in Los Angeles, where the Watts riots would take hold of the city just years later. Shortly after joining the Los Angeles Police Department, Parks witnessed another rise with the 1992 LA riots. In 2020, he watched yet again — as civil unrest raged after the killing of George Floyd.
“That’s going to be our life, in my judgment forever, because you’re not going to get rid of 400 years of issues dealing with discrimination that was sanctioned and then say, ‘It’s just going to go away.’ It’s embedded in people,” Parks said.
In the latest episode of “LA Stories with Giselle Fernandez,” the former LAPD chief offers his unique perspective on the Black Lives Matter protests and call for police reform. As a Black man, he has experienced racism and understands the anger and frustration of the movement.
As a former police chief, Parks has extensive training and background in law enforcement. So while Parks understands the frustrations from both sides, he said the solution is not a simple one.
“We’re putting salve on a major wound, as opposed to really solving the problem,” he said.
It’s undeniable, Parks explains, that the killing of George Floyd at the hands of Derek Chauvin was absolutely uncalled for.
“To see that a person could be so dismissive of the protection of a person’s life, none of that made sense. None of it from point A to Z made sense.”
During his tenure as the chief, Parks was known for taking a hands-on approach with policing, rooting out rogue officers during the Rampart scandal and cutting crime rates to some of the lowest that have been seen.
Parks’ other claim to fame was being named one of People Magazine’s 50 Most Beautiful People — a rare accolade for any police chief. While the achievement makes him laugh, Parks is most proud of the work he did as chief.
“My legacy will always be, ‘He showed up and he was honest, and he left and he was honest.'”